Born on 13rd of July 1859
Died on 13rd of October 1947
Sidney Webb, with his wife Beatrice, made a lasting contribution to the policies of British socialism and the Labour Party. As political reformer, social historian and economist Webb advocated gradual change towards socialism rather than revolutionary action, an approach exemplified by the ethos of the Fabian Society.
Born in London July 13 1859 Sidney Webb came from a professional family and worked as a civil servant before training as a lawyer. He was called to the Bar in 1885 but in the same year joined the newly formed Fabian Society along with George Bernard Shaw and Beatrice Potter who was to become his wife. They founded the London School of Economics in 1895 and later the News Statesman periodical in 1913. While serving as members of the Royal Commission on Poor Laws (1905- 9) Beatrice and Sidney Webb produced a minority report which, in its recommendations, presaged significant aspects of the future Welfare State.
Between 1915 and 1925 Sidney Webb served on the executive of the Labour Party and was active in drafting its new constitution. He was elected an MP in 1922 and in 1924 was appointed President of the Board of Trade in Ramsay MacDonald’s first Labour government, then made 1st Baron Passfield in 1929, serving as Dominions’ Secretary until 1930. Webb then became Colonial Secretary until the fall of the Labour Government in 1931.
Fervent socialists, the Webbs visited the Soviet Union in 1932 and, ignoring any evidence of Stalinist totalitarianism, published Soviet Communism: a New Civilization? three years later. That title’s question mark was later removed, and their last book together The Truth about Soviet Russia (1942) may not have lived up to its titular promise.
Beatrice died in April 30, 1943 and Sidney on October 13, 1947. Influential studies of trade unionism, local government, poverty and other issues of industrial democracy remained their legacy.
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